Skip Navigation

Work, Life & Engagement Blog

Work, Life & Engagement Blog

As spring is around the corner and the winter energy turns to growth and rejuvenation, I thought you might like to know about the Johns Hopkins Work-Life Pledge which has grown in leaps and bounds over the past year.

Improve Work-Life Effectiveness

The Johns Hopkins Work-Life Pledge is an opportunity to pursue one’s desired work-life mix with intention and effort – similar to the effort that we put into our careers and other important areas of life. Interested faculty and staff take the pledge by choosing from best practices in five categories known to improve work-life effectiveness. 

It’s clear that many of us value work-life effectiveness, yet we know it’s not always easy to prioritize. The pledge strategies, we hope, are a pathway in this direction: practicing self-care, increasing quality communication, managing technology, working with a work-life perspective, and engaging for personal and professional effectiveness.

Focus on Culture and Climate

The Work-Life field is shifting from a sole focus on programs and policies to include a critical focus on culture and climate. At Johns Hopkins we are surrounded by a wonderful portfolio of resources, so wonderful that one might think we’ve got work-life effectiveness perfected. But, we know that work-life fit is personal and resources alone do not create a work-life culture. 

What started out as a wonder of ‘would this be interesting to people’ and ‘could this actually help’ has turned into ongoing interest by people who clearly want to focus on a better work-life mix. The pledge has been taken nearly 1,000 times which has started conversations that help us think about work-life culture from a new perspective, the individual perspective. 

We know that culture building involves leaders, programs, policies, and people. The Work-Life Pledge is another way we are helping to build a better culture at Johns Hopkins.

Are you sleepy?  Do you feel tired?  If so, you are not alone. 

The problem of sleep deprivation is so pervasive that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says insufficient sleep is a ‘public health problem.’ 

Due to competing demands in our work-life mix, it’s easy to short change the hours we need to restore our body and mind. When people are sleeping less than the recommended hours of sleep, it is associated with lifestyle factors related to a 24/7 society, such as stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity, excessive electronic media use, etc.

A recent report by Hamper, et al, aims to sound an alarm because insufficient sleep has been found to be associated with a range of negative health and social outcomes, including success in the workforce. The authors state, “Given the potential adverse effects of insufficient sleep on health, well-being, and productivity, the consequences of sleep-deprivation have far-reaching economic consequences.” For example, on an annual basis, the US loses an equivalent of about 1.23 million working days due to insufficient sleep. You can review other key findings and the authors’ recommendations on the Rand Corporation website.

If you aren’t getting the recommend number of hours, what would it take to increase the time you spend sleeping? What might you gain?

Just as there are seasons in one’s life, there can be seasons or cycles in our work. Maybe the start and end of the semester impacts the pace of your work. Or, maybe grant writing schedules dictate your schedule. One way to manage pace changes and overwork is a strategy called Sprint-Recover.

This line of thinking can be much more liberating and powerful than a typical message of everything in moderation. This is not intended to devalue moderation at all, but Sprint-Recover tends to resonate with super-busy people who make choices to push ahead on a special project, take on one more task, throw a party, engage in extra activities, etc. It’s also very aligned with American culture and messages that we see so often around pushing oneself, going hard, being great – the Sprint. What often needs more attention is the Recover component.

Sprint-Recover can be a great perspective for work-life mix because it empowers choice to push and to rest. It can be as simple as “I’m working extra because I’m getting ready to be out for 10 days” or more complex in planning for a heavy workload/family load for the next number of weeks, and accepting that choice, knowing that catch-up and recovery time are planned. The key take away is that we need to be thoughtful about planning and taking downtime – and not feel guilty about recovering from a big sprint. 

The Sprint-Recover term as it relates to work-life mix is not widely discussed in this exact way, but two researchers at Portland State University published a white paper on this topic and they offer some nice strategies and ways to think about the Recover side of a Sprint. 

People are often talking about fitness - physical fitness, financial fitness, even mental fitness, but we rarely talk about work/life fitness. If you are visiting our website it is likely that you've heard the term "work/life balance," but does having work/life balance mean you are work/life fit? 

The notion of balance is often misleading; the term indicates that balance is attainable and if you obtain it, you will be happy or satisfied with both your work and your life - almost as if it's a mathematical problem that can be solved. But this is not always the case. Living in a strict balance, be it a balance of time or a balance of effort, can be prohibitive when your personal life demands increase or when your professional demands increase. This is why fitness is a more contemporary metaphor than balance. 

Fitness implies sprinting and recovery, and hence the flexibility to shift your focus where it needs to be at any given point. Perhaps you are pushing hard to accomplish a project at work or meet an enormous deadline; doing so will likely impede on your personal life because you allow it to. In the same regard, when personal challenges demand our time and attention, it likely impacts the ability to be fully focused at work. You might find yourself accomplishing personal to-do items while at work, or needing to take time off to focus more seriously on family needs or an upcoming event. The point is that balance is never static. More often than not, we are actively manipulating our time and energy to accomplish pressing priorities. 

The metaphor of fitness can be empowering because it encourages a personalized and flexible approach to managing our priorities, our time, and our energy. Knowing and acknowledging that we choose to spend more effort in a particular area of our lives at a given point can help us avoid burnout, so long as we plan a recovery from the sprint. 

Your work/life fit is personal, and it varies according to your life stage. Are you feeling fit or do you need to make changes? Thinking ahead about upcoming projects or personal life events can help you plan your fitness and manage your energy appropriately. The Johns Hopkins Work-Life Pledge can help you make daily choices in support of a better fit for you.

The Huffington Post recently featured some of my thoughts about how to be a great employee while you're on vacation. While it may seem difficult to keep your work moving forward while you take time off, you'll likely be a better employee when you return. In the article, I suggest ways to prepare work for your vacation, plan your reentry into work, and make use of the time off to reset and restore.